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A Meditation On The Nature Of The Reader

February 25, 1996

Responding to Richard Eder's meditation on the nature of a reviewer (December 24, 1995): The view from a reader's side.

A reviewer is a traveler, an explorer, yes--but so is anyone who reads. The reviewer is also a travel guide. He (generic "he," as in "any person who is a reviewer, regardless of anatomy") tells the potential reader what he found and, within limits, what he thinks and how he feels about what he found.

A reviewer who uses his column for a dissertation on the subject of the book, rather than the book itself, is of no use to me--I want to know about the book, not the reviewer. And if I am just told that a book is marvelous or awful, that is not very helpful either--I need to know why the reviewer thought so. Is it the plotting? The characters? The language? Is the book satirical or lyrical? Is it factual or contemplative? What is delightful to you could be annoyingly fanciful to me; what is stimulating to me could be dry to you.

So, Richard, keep doing what you do. Travel, tell us what you found, and then give us your reactions and what they are based on.

KATHARINA SMITH, CANOGA PARK

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